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Experiencing the Holidays: COVID-19 Edition

November 19, 2020

Is it just me or do other people also feel a bit of tension during the holiday season? The food and festivities are great, but at different times between November 1st and January 2nd there are some stressful, not-so-fun times. Between work, family, and friends we are pulled in many directions and most of us want to make sure everyone in those categories is pleased with our contributions. There can also be sadness, or feelings of being overwhelmed during the holidays. Basically, there’s a vast spectrum of feelings we can experience during these times, influenced by a variety of circumstances. This seems to be the case almost every year, even while life is “normal.” This year, and who knows how for many more to come, we get to add COVID-19 to the list of obstacles to overcome in our efforts to have an enjoyable holiday season. Yay!! That was me attempting sarcasm, if you couldn’t tell. This time of year tends to be challenging enough, and now with COVID-19 literally in the air, the culmination of challenges may seem insurmountable.

While some are overwhelmed or distraught, there is also a fraction of the population who is enjoying the restrictions set in place by their city or state. Just like the rest of the world, they are displeased with the virus, but the luxury of having city or statewide ordinances limiting human interactions is a dream come true! I’m sure they are singing the same tune as Elsa Majimbo, “I wanted to meet up but, ooo it’s a pandemic,” and relishing in it. Wherever you fall on the spectrum of emotions surrounding COVID-19, this blog post is for you.

Here are five reminders to help you have an enjoyable holiday season.

Accept that this year will be different. Just because you accept something, doesn’t mean you have to like it. Acceptance is a strategy that helps us have peace and think clearly. Once you’ve accepted the obstacle, you can navigate it better, compared to ignoring or resisting the obstacle. The fact is this holiday season is going to look different than it has ever looked before. Once you’ve accepted that, and you’ve accepted the feelings surrounding that truth, you can then begin to plan accordingly.

Do you. To “do you” correctly requires taking a sober estimate of what you need, and then doing it. If you have a partner and/or children, it’s necessary to also take their needs into consideration. Everyone may not get what they want, but everyone should get what they need. How do you determine what you need? Ask yourself how important it is to get something done or to attend an event. If the importance is higher than a 6.99 out of 10, I would classify it as a need, and do my best to make it happen. Nobody gets to tell you what is important and what is not important to you. You also don’t get to make that decision for others. Do you and support your loved ones in doing them.

Respect limits. In conjunction with “doing you,” it’s important to know and respect limits. This might also mean trusting people’s motives and intentions with regard to what they decide to do and not do. As you respect the limitations of others, also respect your limits. You can’t do everything, but you can do a handful of things extremely well. Again, take a sober and truthful estimate of what you can actually commit to. Then say “no” or “maybe another time” to everything else. Saying no is hard for some, but just like Elsa, you can blame it on the pandemic.

Live one day at a time. Repeat after me, “Today is (say the day of the week) and I will do what my body allows me to do today.” You may need to prioritize activities, but ultimately, listen to your body. Give yourself permission to do only what needs to get done, or to only do what you can do today. You’ll notice you actually have more energy to accomplish things when you’re not setting impossible standards regarding what you can accomplish in a day. And if something doesn’t get done today, it’s okay. Just get it done tomorrow. This notion may be hard for some but take deep breaths and repeat the sentence as often as you need to.

This too shall pass. When you think about it, November 1st-January 2nd isn’t actually that long of a time period. It’s just intense and jam packed, which makes it feel like a long period of time. It’s two months and two days that crescendos and decrescendos like a roller coaster ride with gory holiday music playing in the background. At least this year feels like that. In efforts to maintain your sanity, make plans and be flexible. The plans will help you feel grounded, and the flexibility will help you feel in control.

These are just five things we can do. There are many other things we can add to the list. I hope this is helpful, and if it’s not, I implore you to figure out what will be helpful and do those things. We all deserve to enjoy this time of year, at least to the best of our abilities.

Ayo Akindumila, LMFT, is a staff therapist at our Center City and University City offices in Philadelphia  PA; she currently sees clients via online therapy. To set-up an appointment, you can reach her at aakindumila@councilforrelationships.org or 215-382-6680 ext. 7080.